In her much-discussed profile of Chatroulette founder Andrey Ternovskiy, whose innovative site randomly pairs strangers via video chat, the New Yorker's Julia Ioffe raises an interesting point about the direction of the Internet's social element.
The technology behind Chatroulette is fairly basic and not particularly new. But by combining video-chatting technology and randomization Ternovskiy has bucked a decade-long trend that has made the Internet feel progressively more organized, pleasant, and safe. Google (founded in 1998) makes sure you pull up less flotsam when you search. Social networks like Friendster (2002), MySpace (2003), and Facebook (2004) let you stay in touch with a network of people you already know. Privacy settings keep out the ones you don't. Twitter (2006) feeds you information from sources you choose to follow. Now Chatroulette has come along and showed us that we want chaos, too.
Ioffe's point raises the question: is randomness is the next direction the Internet will take? If so, what would that look like?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.